“Revenge, with extra sleaze.”
Director Lam is responsible for insane cult classic, The Story of Ricky, and if this is more restrained, it’s only by comparison. Casino manager Chieh Ying (Wong) is gang-raped by five sleazebags – and, wouldn’t you know it, they’re the same guys who killed her father. Worse is to come, as a trip to the doctor reveals a rather nasty case of venereal disease, and after some melancholic wandering around which occupies the rest of the first half (and, to be frank, is rather boring), our heroine gets tore into the villains, extracting the titular payback. Though you know the old saying, “She who seeks vengeance, must first dig two graves”? That’s a severe understatement here, because this roaring rampage will end needing an entire cemetery, costing Chieh Ying almost everybody she cares about, from her uncle, a wheelchair bound kung-fu wizard (Lam, best known for the Mr. Vampire series), to her wannabe boyfriend (Wong).
Once things kick off, this is impressive, and it’s clear that Lam does not give a damn about any kind of political correctness. The performances are (surprisingly?) decent, with Wong suitably angsty, and the villains entirely hissable, though their apparent inability to recognize her certainly defies explanation – I’ve never raped anyone, but if I did, think I would likely remember what they looked like. Lam is his usual great self, demonstrating some amazing moves as a crippled master, at one point whipping one of the wheels off his chair, and hurling it at an assailant. The main problem is poor pacing, to such an extent that it feels almost like two separate films, spliced together – and as we’ll see, that is indeed the case in some ways. The film gets credit for not hanging around, and gets the rape out of the way with admirable speed. However, things then grind to a halt for a good 30 minutes, Chieh Ying moping around from Macao to Hong Kong and back again, before eventually getting a job in her uncle’s bar. Your attention may drift away considerably during this spell.
Fortunately, things recover significantly when she starts taking out the trash, with a wicked combination of blades, acid and curtains constructed of fish hooks (!). And that’s not mentioning the F-sized crossbow she and her uncle construct: the poster isn’t quite accurate in the details, but does give you an idea. There’s a wonderfully bleak approach here: while Chieh Ying may get the retribution she has been craving, does it really help? Is she any happier as a result? I sincerely doubt it. If damaged by its unevenness, this remains a good example of “they don’t make ’em like this any more,” as far as Hong Kong cinema is concerned.
Dir: Ngai Kai Lam
Star: Pauline Wong, Ching-Ying Lam, Elaine Jin, Kelvin Wong
Note: there have been a couple of versions of this officially released: one with all the sex and violence, and another where that was cut, but containing other scenes that actually resulted in a longer running-time, by several minutes. Some enterprising individual took it upon themselves to splice the two together, and that’s the version reviewed here.